RTA responds to drivers’ union concerns

Greater Dayton RTA CEO Mark Donaghy. (WDTN Photo/Justin Kraus)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – CEO Mark Donaghy has released a statement regarding some of the disputes between the Amalgamated Transit Union and RTA.

2 NEWS has reached out to the ATU and they said they would announce the strike date early next week.

The strike would impact RTA drivers and mechanics.

Below is the statement sent to 2 NEWS directly from RTA.

False Statement – RTA has not bargained in good faith for nearly two years.

RTA Response – RTA Management has been willing, ready, and proactive in trying to bargain with the ATU.  Sadly, after just two bargaining sessions lasting only 3 hours each on April 2nd and May 22nd, 2015, the ATU negotiating leaders demanded the involvement of 3rd parties instead of traditional face-to-face bargaining which has served both parties for almost forty years.  First with a state appointed mediator and then when unhappy with his efforts a demand to go straight to fact-finding.  These tactics cost their members a year of time and ultimately their members back pay for that contract year.

False Statement – RTA’s wage offer is inadequate.

RTA Response – The final and current offer made by management included 2% per year for each of 3 years in a new agreement, plus a 2% lump sum payment that employees could take in cash or deposit in their Health Savings Account representing contract year 2015..  Project Mobility drivers would receive up to a 10.5% raise depending on length of service.

False Statement – RTA employees are paid “poverty wages.”

RTA Response – The average earnings in 2015 for ATU represented employees of RTA was $60,260.  The average wage by job classification for 2015 is shown it this table and far exceed Federal poverty levels.

Lineman $ 77,581
Journeyman $ 73,356
Specialist $ 65,529
Service Repair $ 64,933
Utility Mechanical $ 64,549
Traditional Operator $ 62,996
Cleaner/Fueler $ 62,229
Utility Cleaner $ 58,305
Janitor $ 58,057
Utility Cleaner Non-Mechanical $ 41,331
Project Mobility Operator $37,371
2015 Federal Poverty Level (Family of 3) $20,090

False Statement – Effective January 1, 2017 our employees will be paying $9,472 per year for family health insurance coverage.

RTA Response – This is a scare tactic.   It assumes all employees have family coverage, that all employees will have out of pocket medical costs exceeding the $5,000 deductible, does not give credit for the company contribution to the HSA accounts, and does not take into account tax savings.  RTA employees past health plans have included cost sharing, co-pays, and out of pocket costs.  These employee costs are not something new, unfortunately under current market conditions the cost are simply increasing faster than any party wants.

The truth is RTA is one of if the last public agencies in the region to move to a high deductible health plan and only did so because costs were spiraling out of control due to rising claims experience.  In 2016 it is anticipated that RTA will spend nearly $9.8 million on heath costs.  If the ATU can provide a verifiable alternative plan proposal and the cost is the same or lower than the 2017 plan, RTA would welcome that.

False Statement – RTA is demanding too much.

RTA Response – RTA wants a successor agreement with ATU.  Management dropped more than 90% of its proposals and has tried multiple times since presenting the final offer demanded by ATU, to seek additional changes in order to accomplish that goal.  Its’ final offer is fair and reasonable.   RTA AFSCME associates ratified an agreement with similar terms over a year ago.

False Statement – ATU’s demands are fair.

RTA Response – As of December 2nd, ATU’s position was that it would not accept any new contract offer unless RTA procured a health plan such as the former PPO plan and increased the wage offer made.  The current offer to ATU will cost RTA nearly $1 million in the first year and more than $4 million over the life of the agreement.  ATU’s December 2nd demands would drive the first year costs up by an additional $2 million and future costs much higher!

False Statement – RTA can afford to give more, they have plenty of money.

RTA Response – RTA is required to maintain cash reserves.  First RTA must maintain funds to meet monthly payroll and vendor expenses, as RTA receives sales tax collections from the State of Ohio three months after the state collects them and all Federal grants are on a reimbursement basis are require RTA to spend upfront and then seek reimbursement.  This need totals over $5-7 million on average.  Next, RTA has to maintain funds to meet the match requirements of all current Federal grants and projected future Federal grants before applying for them.  This requirement can range from $10-15 million.  Finally, RTA is required to account for their share of the unfunded PERS pension liability which was over $28.6 million in 2015.  These along with other requirements use all of RTA’s existing cash reserves.

Impact of a Labor Action

What happens if ATU members decide to strike and shut down the bus system?

A strike by ATU members would hurt everyone.  Our customers lose access to their jobs and personal needs.  ATU members lose their wages and benefits.  Although this could mean a complete shutdown of regular scheduled service on RTA fixed routes, RTA staff will provide Project Mobility service for critical medical appointments such as dialysis treatments.

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